``Ceci n'est pas un livre,'' declares the author of this mercurially playful paradox of confessional literature, authorial awakening, and creative endeavor. The French BÇnabou has, of course, written many books, including Throw Away This Book Before It's Too Late (1992), and is the Definitively Provisional Secretary of surrealist Raymond Queneau's Oulipo (Workshop for Potential Literature), an experimental collective that has included Marcel Duchamp, Italo Calvino, and BÇnabou's friend Georges Perec. The first section of this peculiarly circular work has (following a series of tongue-in- cheek introductions) as its opening sentence the line ``In the beginning, a short sentence.'' This turns out to be, in fact, the book's conclusion. How BÇnabou got to this conclusion is another story, which he obliquely recounts in the rest of ``this (quite real) nonbook.'' It involves an early love for secondhand books and blank notebooks, progresses with uncertainty toward an inchoate life as a writer, and stalls. After such metaliterary hijinks and post-Romantic self-consciousness, BÇnabou restarts himself, focusing on his family history (his ancestors were Sephardic Jews resident in Morocco) and in particular on the occasion when his great-grandfather appeared in a travelogue about Morocco by Pierre Loti (the origin of his family's francophilia). BÇnabou's inheritance is thus split several ways, among an ``exotic'' Arabic background, Jewish heritage, and French acculturation, an identity crisis further complicated by the influence-anxiety he catches from numerous actual books. Before he's finished with his search for the ideal, or potential, book, BÇnabou has juggled with the ideas of Pascal, Borges, Walter Benjamin, and Derrida. A hyperaware and erudite product of Gallic postmodernism, BÇnabou's ludic essay dodges giddily among romantic notions of writing and Parnassian ideals of literature.